Saturday, October 14, 2006

Beet Pulp II - How to Soak and Feed

Beet Pulp is available

  • Plain - no molasses added. The only ingredient listed on the label will be "Beet Pulp". The sugar content of unmolassed Beet Pulp can range from 6% to 12% but is usually less than 10%.
  • Molasses added. The label will list "Beet Pulp" and "Molasses". The sugar content of molassed Beet Pulp can run from around 12% to higher than 20%. Small amounts of molasses may be added for dust control without being listed on the ingredient tag.
  • Beet Pulp "shreds" usually have no further processing after the sugar is removed, some shreds are chopped before being bagged. Size can vary from a "rough chop" to larger bark-like flat pieces.
  • Beet Pulp pellets are shreds that have been finely chopped and formed into pellets.
  • SpeediBeet is a brand of micronized (extremely finely chopped) beet pulp which absorbs water very quickly. Popular in the UK, it is slowly becoming available in the US.

How Much to Feed

A half pound (dry weight before soaking) of plain Beet Pulp makes a good low-carbohydrate carrier for supplements. This would be in the range of a couple of handfuls of pellets or a little more than half of a 1lb coffee can of shreds. This is the amount often used to replace a higher sugar/starch "prepared" feed.

Feeding a pound or two (dry weight) of Beet Pulp will help maintain weight and 3 to 4 pounds or more will help with weight gain without increasing starch levels as grain does.

Because of its high fiber content, it can be used as 25-40% of the ration for horses who have difficulty chewing.

Soaking Beet Pulp

Beet Pulp shreds can be fed without soaking - this has long been a practice at race tracks. Dry shreds are no more likely to cause choke than any other dry feed however most horses (and their humans) prefer them soaked, or at least moistened. Some shreds will soak up in as little as ten minutes in warm water; twenty to thirty minutes is usually adequate.

Beet Pulp pellets tend to be much harder than other pellets and it is strongly suggested they be fully soaked. They will soften up in an hour or two depending on the brand and temperature and will expand up to 10 times their original volume in 4-8 hours. It's really difficult to describe if you've never seen it.

Caution - I've soaked beet pulp up to 12 hours without any problem but have heard others report it getting "sour" if left too long, especially in warm weather. You can start soaking in the morning for an evening feed (and in the evening for a morning feed), keeping it out of the sun.

I like to drain the soaked beet pulp (I use a mesh colander) and will also rinse if the dry beet pulp was very dusty or if I think it might have a bit of molasses in it. If I notice a horse isn't drinking as well as I'd like, I will sometimes add some water back in and serve his beet pulp as a "soup".

You can then add supplements, salt and other "stuff" (I toss in a handful of Timothy pellets) either top dressed or stirred in.

Some horses will initially turn up their nose at beet pulp and will take some acclimating. It can help to start with just a little added to something they already like, then gradually increase the beet pulp while decreasing the other feed to make the transition. I've personally never encountered this - every horse I've given beet pulp to just dived right in. But if your horse needs a taste tempter, Megan's website page on Natural Flavorings has some good ideas.

I have found that using feed pans rather than wall feeders simplifies clean up - I can take the pans to a hose to rinse them out. (Left over beet pulp will turn rancid or mold if left in a feeder.)

Tips for Boarders

Boarding your horse always makes controlling your horse’s diet harder but many have found ways to work beet pulp into the routine.

  • If you can get to the barn daily, soak the beet pulp at home or at work (a small cooler can work well for soaking and transporting). You can do this once a week or so and keep it in baggies in your freezer, ready for a quick grab on your way out the door.

  • If the barn has a refrigerator, you can soak/drain/rinse the beet pulp at home and pack in individual baggies to keep in the barn’s fridge. (For more than 3-4 days, it should be kept in the freezer.)

  • While “soak/drain/rinse” is ideal to remove surface iron, dust and residual sugar, the draining/rinsing could be skipped if your beet pulp is unmolassed and relatively dust free.

  • If the barn owner is willing to help, make it easy for them. Pre-measure the beet pulp and your supplements into baggies, provide a large closed bucket or other container to keep your stuff neat and together. If needed, provide the bucket for soaking, a colander for draining, a metal sweat scraper for stirring. And be willing to offer paying a bit extra for this service.

Beet pulp is not “necessary” but is a low sugar/low starch alternative to bagged feeds and grain or can be used as a substitute for some of the hay ration (especially if you need to replace some high sugar/starch hay) and is well accepted by most horses. It doesn’t take long to get into a routine and the benefits usually outweigh any inconvenience.

Don't forget to check out Beet Pulp I - You want me to eat WHAT???

if you came here to Part II first.


  1. This was very informative! I had no clue what Beet pulp was and how to feed it! Thank you!

  2. I have fed shredded beet pulp exactly as you have described since I've had my horse home (was boarded) and have been looking everywhere to see if I was feeding correct amt. It's a relief to read that I have been! Thanks. My horse loved the stuff from day one. He gets it as an appetizer to his alfalfa and bermuda dindin..

  3. I have an Arabian with cushing's disease. Because he get jealous when the other horses get grain and he doesn't, I started feeding him shredded beets with no adverse effect on his Cushing's. My constant concern is sugar content. The shredded beets is perfect and he loves it water.

  4. Thanks for access to your info. I'm goiong to try it on an old head horse(25) how the time flies. he's retired and livin' the "LIfe of Riley". I just want a fatter "Riley". Thanks again....most helpful.

  5. Hi- Just found your site searching for feeding amoutn recommendations on beet pulp. I was first introduced to beet pulp years ago when my TB mare colicked. for the next three years, beet pulp and equine senior kept her alive. I am fascinated with equine nutrition ever since I took college classes on the subject. Since I recently got into endurance, I find myself delving into quite a bit of late. I look forward to reading your blog and feel free to hop on over to my blog, Barbs, Etc. I will soon be posting about my recent decision on feeding my endurance horse and would welcome any suggestions

  6. Hi Jonna ~ it's warm in AZ and ride season's been going on all winter!
    Email me if you want more info on balancing hay, spreadsheets, etc.
    You might also be interested in Dr. Kellon's nutrition courses - see under "Links".
    Nice looking horses.

  7. this is so helpful.!.! my horse has been losing weight and a friend reccomended beet pulp only we did not know how much! so this was super helpful! thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! =)

  8. Make sure you're also looking at the total "big picture" - teeth, parasites/deworming, ulcers, poor quality hay, teeth/chewing problems, Cushings and/or Insulin Resistance (many IR horses are thin, not fat). Feel free to email me if I can help.

  9. This is a great article!

    My question is this, I know you should never feed more than 5 pounds of grain at a time. Does beet pulp fall into this category or is it OK to feed his regular grain ration (about 4-5 pounds) at the same time as his 2-3 pounds (dry, before soaking)of beet pulp? Can a horse have too much beet pulp at once like with grain?

  10. Hi Heather ~
    Beet pulp is high fiber/low sugar, so it doesn't present the same kinds of issues that grain does (of undigested sugar/starch making its way to the hind gut). This makes beet pulp really useful stuff.
    Are you doing CRI's and/or "mini vet checks" to monitor your gelding's training?
    Like your blog - I have a Standard Poodle who had a seizure one time - Poodles do get them but I think his elytes were messed up (hot summer day, he had been running a lot).

  11. We do mini vet checks occasionally. We 'trot out' whenever I am leading him anywhere father then 20 feet. He is getting good at that! Haven't started working on trotting out with me on the off side yet. I am working on temp taking, that is coming along slowly. Right now I can lift his tail and touch him/ scratch his rump, but we haven't tried actually taking the temp yet. I always feel his legs before and after rides. I have only just succeeded in finding his pulse for the first time today and resting it was 32bpm. So, he is getting used to all of the endurance vet check things, but not all at once or by a stranger- yet!

    As for Charley, we had his blood panel done and his electrolytes, blood sugar, etc were fine. Since his dad has seizures they think it is epilepsy. I hope it doesn't happen again.

  12. I am so glad I finally found some info on how to feed beet pulp...we have been told about it, but there were no directions on the bag. Internet is a great invention!

  13. I am not happy with the messy way I feed beet pulp, how do you do it,or what is the best way???

  14. I was just wondering, you say feed 1-2lbs (dry weight) to maintain the horses weight. Is that per X lbs of body weight? I have a 31 year old Arabian mare (about 14.2hh, 700lbs approx) that I would like to start feeding beet pulp as opposed to grain because she is now retired, and I was wondering if 1-2lbs applies to her?

    Thanks a bunch for this imformative article!

  15. Hi ~
    That's usually a "total" of 1-2 lbs (dry weight before soaking).
    Beet pulp is roughly equivalent to alfalfa and/or oats for calories.
    It's difficult to give a blanket comparison to grain or concentrate feed as its processed in the hindgut (the best place for horses to get their calories). Some horses who weren't maintaining weight on grain do much better on beet pulp instead. For insulin resistant horses, we consider it a low sugar/low starch substitute for grain/concentrates.

  16. Soren ~
    I was hoping to do a "picture" description but haven't had time to get to it.
    I have a small area by a tree with little traffic to do my soaking/draining. I soak for three horses in one bucket, and have three mesh colanders to drain it in. I usually rinse till the water runs clear, then dump it into their feed pans. I don't like to feed beet pulp in "permanent" feeders as it can be too hard to clean any left over.
    I then mix in their supplement (balanced minerals, salt, flax), stir well, then add some Timothy pellets with a light stir.
    As they usually flip the feed pans anyway, and they have mats but no bedding in the stalls, I often dump the feed pans onto the mats so I can clean the feed pans right away.
    They're usually finished by the time I'm done with chores and ready for turn out.
    My friend doesn't have mats, so serves her beet pulp in grain feeders that hang on the corral rails - they can be pulled and rinsed as soon as the horses are finished.
    When I boarded for training, I didn't do the "rinsing" - just made up pre-measured baggies of beet pulp which the barn help put in a bucket and covered with water, then they stirred the supplements in. Not ideal but it worked.
    Some folks who board and have a refrigerator available do the soak/drain/rinse at home and put the wet beet pulp in baggies in the bard fridge.
    It's never perfect and my feet do get wet : )

  17. I have a 21 yr old QH WHO CAN NO LONGER EAT HAY. He is on pasture 24/7 and does alright with that as I keep it mowed short. He gets senior feed a.m. and p.m. and a scoop (2+cups) shredded beet pulp soaked and mixed in. His weight is perfect now but as the season changes and the pasture gets richer can I pull him off of everything. Last year he was strictly on pasture during spring and summer. as soon as the pasture looses it nutirents I start him back on pellets.I guess I'm asking if I'm doing the right thing the right way. This feeding thing is so confusing. thanks

  18. I had an 8 month old paint that had a belly full of sand, with his ribs showing and belly hanging and he looked bad. My vet told me to start using 1 1/2 coffee cans of shredded beet pulp and his normal ration of hay pellets, all in the same 5 gal bucket and soak them in water together for at least 6 hrs. He got this twice a day and within 3 months, he looked and acted like a different horse. It did wonders for him and I was amaised.

  19. I don't advocate replacing psyllium with beet pulp, but it does share some similar properties to help with sand removal. Beet pulp also encourages development of "good" microbes in the gut,which helps improve fiber fermentation (poor fermentation is one cause of "hay belly"). Along with the extra calories, beet pulp can help a horse in rehab.

  20. I just noticed this was a young (8 month old) weanling. Beet pulp can be high iron, and calcium levels can be similar to alfalfa, so it's important his diet is balanced - sufficient copper/zinc to counter high iron and a correct Calcium to Phosphorus ratio - between 1.5 and 2:1.
    Young horses also need attention paid to their deworming schedules - check with your vet with what's appropriate for your area and the young horse's environment.

  21. Hi, my 6 yo mare got diarrhea yesterday and she is not wanting to drink a lot, so we are feeding her beet pulp for hydration...but is it okay that she is getting 2 quarts of grain and beet pulp at the same time? I am feeding her grain in the morning and beet pulp in the evening.

  22. Yes - but if you're able to feed 2x a day, I'd split the grain and beet pulp in to two feedings. s she still eating some hay? I'm always concerned when a horse - especially a younger horse - backs off eating and drinking. If a horse is "off", I like to give frequent beet pulp "slurries" or "soup" with some salt added. But please watch that she isn't getting dehydrated while you figure out why she's having diarrhea and have your vet involved in case she needs IV fluids.
    If her "grain" has high sugar/starch (i.e. sweet feed), I would hold it for a few days unless its the only thing she's eating. Also make sure she's getting sufficient salt - try up to a couple of teaspoons/day to start - and monitor her water intake. If you have waterers, put in a large bucket/clean trash barrel so you can make sure she's drinking at least 5-10 gallons a day.
    Do get your vet involved if it doesn't resolve in a couple of days, if the diarrhea is bad smelling, if she stops eating or drinking or doesn't seem "right" to you.
    Oh - and beet pulp slurries can be messy - be prepared to stay out of flinging or muzzle rubbing range if you're not wearing your old clothes.

  23. i recently got a 15 year old percheron gelding he was very malnurished to the point of being a skeleton with skin after two weeks he is picking up some weight but i would like to add beet pulp shreds to his grain without the mess of soaking is that ok to do we did worm him and float his teeth so now he just needs tlc

  24. Hi Jill ~
    for some reason I didn't get notification of your comment/question.
    It's fine to give unsoaked beet pulp shreds - they've been doing that on race tracks for years with no problems, and beet pulp is included in many pre-mixed feeds. If your horse has no difficulty chewing, the beet pulp shreds won't be any more difficult for him than chewing hay.
    For your Percheron, do make sure you are using beet pulp with no added molasses - it's the calories from fermenting the fiber in the BP that he needs to safely add weight, not "sugar" calories.
    If you use beet pulp pellets, soaking is recommended as these pellets are harder than other pellets.

    Patti Woodbury-Kuvik

  25. The information is very helpful Thank you. I do have a couple questions 1. how much can I start off feeding to my horse? 2. how fast can I increase to get to the 1-2 lbs a day?

  26. Hello ~
    You can start off fairly high with beet pulp as it acts more like a "forage" than a grain. I'd try 1/2 lb (dry weight before soaking) for starters. If he turns his nose up, try a smaller amount mixed into something else he likes to get him used to it. Increase by 1/2 lb every two or three days.
    I recently changed hay so am no longer feeding extra pellets with my beet pulp - so my horses had to get used to "plain" beet pulp (with their supplements mixed in) all over again. It did take two or three days.

    You can check out my web site, also at


  27. This is very helpful as far as the amount of beet pulp that can be served but what is the water ratio to beet pulp. If you feed say 2 lbs. of beet pulp should you add 2 1/2 times as much water? I find that that ratio soaks up any water and leaves beet pulp fluffy but is that correct?

  28. Hello ~
    I soak the beet pulp for all my horses in one 5-gallon bucked (using one bucket with holes drilled for drainage inside a second bucket). I've never actually measured the water added - but fill it so there's an inch or two of water above the level of beet pulp.
    With shreds, I sometimes only soak it for 20-30 minutes; other times it may soak 1-2 hours depending on how much other stuff I need to do.
    After lifting the bucket with the drain holes (and beet pulp) and setting it on a grid (old shelving) to drain, I then hose it to rinse until the water runs clear. Whether it's been 30 minutes or 2 hours, the result is usually pretty "fluffy".

    On rare occasions, I will mix dry beet pulp with thier flax and supplements in individual buckets and add an "equal" amount of water - which will soak up in about five minutes - then stir and serve. I try not to do this too often as there will always be some residual sugars (and surface iron) that remains when not rinsed.

  29. I read an article some time back that stated beet pulp WITH molasses soaked overnight had a lower starch/sugar content than beet pulp without molasses.

    I lost the article and what seemed to be a reputable reference due to a software crash.

    Could that be true?

  30. Soaking molassed beet pulp then rinsing until the water runs clear could result in lower sugar levels than beet pulp "without molasses" which has not been soaked/rinsed if there was a little residual sugar remaining on the plain beet pulp.
    If you were to compare (by lab testing) molassed and plain beet pulp which had both been soaked for a few hours then rinsed until water runs clear, their sugar levels would likely be fairly similar.
    You don't have to soak overnight to reduce sugar levels - only long enough for the simple sugars to transfer from the plant tissue to the water by osmosis - a half hours or so for beet pulp shreds in hot water, or an hour in cold water (similar to soaking hay) would likely be sufficient; this might take longer for beet pulp pellets as the pellets take longer to become soaked through.
    Soaking/rinsing does not affect starch levels, only the levels of simple sugars which are water soluble.
    If you're unable to find beet pulp without added molasses, you can safely give molassed beet pulp which has been soaked and rinsed until the water runs clear to an insulin resistant (IR) horse. This is also good practice for any beet pulp fed to an IR horse to make sure any residual sugars have been removed.

  31. Hello! I just recently bought a five year old thoroughbred gelding in june. He was in rough, rough shape. Bad case of rainrot, and a bag of bones. I have put about 50lbs on him. His teeth were done in june, he was dewormed in june, and a vet had checked him before, also in june. I just recently slowly started switching his grain over to Legend Equine Senior Feed and Beet Pulp. He gets fed 2x a day. 4 flakes of hay in the morning, and turnout in the evening until the morning at 8 a.m.

    I was curious to know around about how much I should be feeding him? I gave him 3 qrts of senior feed, 2 qrts of his previous feed, his supplements, and I gave him about 1/4 of 3 qrt scoop of beet pulp. I mixed it all together, then soaked it. Should I do this 2x daily? Or beet pulp mixed in with feed only in am, and then regular senior feed in pm? He needs to gain weight, like badly. So, please help! :)

  32. Hi - the answer is a bit longer than "feed x amount" so I replied in a new post. See to a general outline of how to feed your gelding to help him gain weight.
    Kudos for working with this boy - I'm sure he's lucky to have found you.

  33. I always fed soaked beet pulp pellents in the winter. However, after my horse started showing severe signs of founder in the middle of the winter?? I investigated beet pulp further and it is not as innocent as we all believe. Some brands can be very high in sugar so BEWARE and do your research. My horse is still suffering and the only thing it could be in the middle of winter is the beet pulp.

  34. Hi Anonymous ~
    Unmolassed beet pulp will be below 12% sugar + starch. You can ensure there is not excess sugar remaining by rinsing the beet pulp until the water runs clear after soaking. Beet pulp that has had molasses added can be very high in sugar - as can any feed that has added molasses.
    It's also quite possible your horse experienced cold induced laminitis - more common than many are aware of. In the winter ACTH levels can be high, even in "normal" (non-PPID) horses - combined with reduced circulation due to the cold can result in laminitis.

  35. I feed my Oldenburg and Thoroughbred 1 Quart of Non- Molasses beet pulp soaked and rinsed 2 times a day with their grain ration. If you want to put some weight on your horse use stabilized rice bran as it is cool calories. I use Triple Crown Omega Max. I put 100 lbs on my Oldenburg and 75 lbs on the Thoroughbred over a 6 month period. When I purchased both of the mares, they were very underweight and young. So go really slow with the weight gain with a young horse to keep OCD's from occurring. I start out with a quarter of a cup 2 times a day and work up to 1 cup twice a day with the rice bran. Watch for loose stool, this may indicate the horse can not tolerate that much fat so adjust the amount according to each horse. Also their coats are super shiny from using the rice bran from all the Omega 3's in the product. I read in a previous post that someone had a horse with a belly full of sand. First I would consult your vet and have the horse examined to make a game plan to remove the sand/ dirt safely with your vets recommendation.The beet pulp is great for fiber but if you want to clear the digestive tract of sand and dirt use Sand Clear or any Phylum product, and purge for one week every month or two according to the footing condition the horse may be eating on.
    Sand Colic can occur if the horse is full of sand/dirt and can be fatal from impaction. So purging for a week with phylum fiber should be a regular routine at least every 2 months or better every month. A good pre/pro biotic supplement daily is also very beneficial to keep the digestive track working well cutting down on the risk of colic. I will always use the beet pulp to make sure my mares are getting enough fiber but it is also great to mix in supplements and put on top of the grain as a dressing or mixed in the grain with a little water. My mares love their beet pulp so all of the supplements always get eaten as they always eat the beet pulp first that is on top of the grain. Good Luck with your horse :)

    1. Beet Pulp and rice bran make a great combination for weight gain - but don't forget, rice bran is high in Omega-6 so should be balanced with an equal amount or more of flax (or chia) seed for the Omega-3 content. See for more information on Omega 3.

    2. I do also feed equal amount of stabilized ground flax along with the rice bran. I have recently cut the rice bran to 1/2 cup twice daily as both mares have reached the weight I wanted to achieve. Now it's about maintenance. Thank you Patty for your suggestion. You can never know enough about equine nutrition. The Thoroughbred I mentioned above was a rescue horse with a very low body score. You could see every bone in her body, and she had loose stools. Not only did she love the beet pulp, but her stools returned to normal with the addition of the the pre/probiotic supplement.
      Thanks Again! :)

    3. Great job - she was lucky to find you!

    4. Thank You Patty!
      Not only was she a rescue in VERY poor condition packed with worms surviving on a moldy round bale in a field, but she also had a fractured knee. When I went to look at her I knew about her knee,but for some reason I just didn't care if she could be ridden. I wanted her anyway, as no one else did. I nursed her back to health and have had numerous x-rays to keep track of the healing process. AMAZING! In just 6 months of rest her knee is completely healed! My vet cleared her for full work. She will be trained and will compete in dressage. I can't believe that she was just thrown away without a care in the world. She is out of Secretariat a Triple Crown winner said to be the most famous race horse of all time. I feel like I have a piece of history standing out in my field. She gained the 75 lbs and grew 2 inches since I have owned her. That's what good nutrition does! And of course someone who cares!

  36. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  37. I use beet pulp without molasses and have had good results. Recently, though, the beet pulp has been full of sand or dirt. A lot of dirt. Should i try another brand or give up the beet pulp altogether.

    1. Hi Melanie ~
      You could try draining/rinsing in a colander which as larger holes (vs a "strainer), and make sure you've used lots of water for soaking.
      If this is a "branded" beet pulp, I'd complain to the manufacturer/distributer. I've been fortunate in having in my area - it is marketed as an "equine feed", not as a "livestock" feed. If there is a Standlee dealer in your area (such as Tractor Supply), I would expect their beet pulp to be consistently good quality (I've only used one or two bags of Standlee and it was fine.)
      I feel the benefits of beet pulp - low carb, acts as a "pre-biotic", liked by most horses - make it worth looking for a consistent quality brand.